My youngest son, Potroast, is fanatical about squirrel hunting. Since our home state of Kentucky has a squirrel season that covers around eight months of the year, he has ample time to chase bushytails.
The result? We eat a lot of squirrel. I mean heaps of squirrel, oodles of squirrel. We use it in casseroles, mix it into sausage every now and then, and even make Buffalo-style squirrel dip from time to time. That said, there are a couple of old standby recipes that see the most table time, pan fried squirrel and squirrel and dumplings rule the roost around here.
A pot of squirrel and dumplings simmering away on the stove top just says comfort. Nothing hits the spot like they do after a long day outside in cold weather. My favorite cooking vessel for the meal is a cast iron Dutch oven. The heavy metal holds the heat well and allows the dish to simmer slowly without burning. And food cooked in cast iron just tastes better.
If I have it on hand, I like to cook my squirrels in chicken stock, but cold water, a bay leaf and some salt will suffice.
3-4 squirrels, skinned but not quartered
2-3 quarts chicken stock or water with a bay leaf and a tablespoon of salt
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
½ cup vegetable shortening or butter
½ cup cold milk
Start the recipe well in advance of meal time (the night before is fine, but the 3 to 4 hours it takes to simmer the squirrels is long enough) by making the dumplings. Whisk the salt and baking powder into the flour then cut in the shortening with a fork until you have pea-sized bits mixed throughout the flour. Gradually stir in milk, a bit at a time, until the mixture forms a smooth dough. Sprinkle a work surface with flour and roll out the dough into a 1/8-inch-thick sheet. Cover with a clean towel and set the dough aside to rest overnight or until the squirrel is done.
Simmer the squirrels in stock or salted water for 3 to 4 hours. Remove the cooked squirrels from the pot and set them aside to cool. Skim off any discolored foam from the top of the stock. If desired, the stock can be filtered through a piece of cheesecloth to remove any extra bits. Return the stock to the heat and bring to a light boil.
Once the squirrel is cool enough to handle, pick the meat from the bones and add it back to the pot.
Uncover your rested dumpling dough and, using a pizza cutter, cut it into 1-inch by 2-inch dumplings.
Drop the dumplings into the boiling stock and simmer for another 10 minutes until they are cooked through, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking.
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